The real first day

Practice No. 1 of the Kevin Ollie era at UConn is in the books.

No, Jim Calhoun wasn’t in attendance, at least not late in the workout.

The Huskies started in Guyer Gym, as they usually did on the first day under Calhoun.

“We started in Guyer. Twenty-two years since I’ve been here, I wasn’t going to change it,” Ollie said with a smile.

But it wasn’t like the old days in the Fieldhouse when the heat was stuck at 97 degrees and the ceiling leaked near midcourt.

“It wasn’t like the old Guyer where the pipes were exposed and steam was going off,” Ollie said. “It’s all pretty over there now so it’s not the same feeling.”

When the Huskies got back to Gampel Pavilion (and the media was allowed in to watch), Ollie certainly showed he’s no pushover.

The Huskies worked overtime on a defensive drill that required the defense to get three straight stops (in a 4-on-4 situation). It took more than a half hour for the task to be accomplished.

“This last drill? We just let them know there’s no compromising,” Ollie said. “There’s no compromising on effort. And if you compromise on effort, you’re going to stay out there on the court in practice. And in the game, you’re going to be on the bench.”

Ollie then announced how serious he was.

“I’ll play with some walk-on’s, I swear to God,” Ollie said. “Because I’m going to have to have players that go out there and play for one another And play hard every day.”

— One of the biggest points of emphasis was rebounding on this day. The Huskies weren’t great at it last year and need to be great if they’re going to run as much as they’d like to this year.

“We didn’t do it fundamentally wise,” Ollie said. “Anybody can look at the stats. I don’t have to talk to you.

“We didn’t have enough heart to go get the ball or we didn’t box out, however you want to do it,” Ollie added.

— G Shabazz Napier, still recovering from foot surgery, participated in perhaps 45 percent of the workout.

“He was probably able to do about 45 percent,” Ollie said. “He did the shooting, went very hard in the shooting but just couldn’t laterally move as quickly as we wanted him to.”

— With Napier out, the “starters” appeared to be PG Ryan Boatright, SG Omar Calhoun, SF DeAndre Daniels, PF Tyler Olander and C Enosch Wolf.

Keep in mind it’s very, very early.

— The UConn players gathered at mid-court after practice for a little team meeting that apparently involves airing any grievances or problems and passing out some praise. It was a suggestion of a sports psychologist the Huskies met with recently. We detailed some of it here in a recent story on Napier.

— Also, here’s the story from First Night.

Ryan Boatright was especially frustrated that the Huskies couldn’t get out of practice because of the final drill.

“It was just (damn!) The team got hot,” Boatright said. “Both of them got hot. And it was the end of the practice, we’d been in practice three hours already and they were hitting shots they wouldn’t normally hit. So you get irritated and frustrated. But it goes like that in the games, too. There are games when big men are hitting three’s.”

— The biggest reason the practice kept going was Leon Tolksdorf couldn’t miss. He was hitting 3’s by the bushel. Most of them came against a walk-on defender but still….

“I call him Pistol Pete. If he’s got his feet set, it’s more than likely going in,” Boatright said of the 6-7 freshman from Germany.

— Ollie has his own style, obviously. And he obviously doesn’t swear as much as Calhoun (Who does?). But it was interesting to see how he runs a practice.

He was seemingly tough but fair. And he encouraged his players to talk and encourage each other early and often.

— In addition to rebounding, there was a lot of focus on help defense.

“Be aggressive but don’t over-help!” Ollie yelled at one point. “That’s why we gave up too many three’s last year.”

— OK, that’s it. We’ll talk to you soon. (Wednesday from Big East media day in New York, if not before).



About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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One Response to The real first day

  1. John Lindner says:

    Thanks for the update.

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